Legislation will ensure that students who engage in the political process on campus are protected, guaranteeing the same rights as other on-campus organizations.
Last week, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (R) signed House Bill 1416 into law. The bill was sponsored by State Representative Kent McCarty (R). It will ensure that public school students can engage in political activities or discussions while protecting the students’ right to free speech and assembly no matter their beliefs.
The measure initially passed the House by a vote of 114-3 and the Senate 52-0.
“Proud to have authored this legislation to defend the right to free speech for ALL Mississippi students!” Rep. McCarty said on Twitter.
McCarty thanked State Representatives Jansen Owen (R) and De’Keither Stamps (D) for co-sponsoring the bill.
“Across the US, we’ve seen schools silence students based on their political beliefs,” Governor Reeves said on Twitter. “In MS, we believe students should be able to freely express themselves.”
The legislation states:
“Students in public schools may engage in political activities or political or philosophical expression before, during and after the school day in the same manner and to the same extent that students may engage in nonpolitical activities or expression. Students may organize partisan or nonpartisan political groups, political clubs, political rallies, or other politically themed gatherings before, during and after school to the same extent that students are permitted to organize other noncurricular student activities and groups.”
Through House Bill 1416, partisan and nonpartisan political groups must be given the same access to school facilities for assembling as is given to other noncurricular groups without discrimination based on the political content of the students’ expression.
The bill says that it is unlawful for any public school which has a limited open forum to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the political, philosophical, ideological or other content of the speech at such meetings.
“Nothing in this act shall be construed to limit the authority of the school, its agents or employees, to maintain order and discipline on school premises, to protect the well-being of students and faculty, and to assure that attendance of students at meetings is voluntary,” H.B. 1416 states.